While the authorities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa blamed ‘intelligence failure’ for Sunday’s brazen jailbreak in Bannu city, a confidential intelligence report claimed that the federal interior ministry was tipped about possible militant strikes three months prior.
According to the report, dated January 5, 2012, Commander Askari of the Tariq Geedar militant group was plotting attacks on different targets, including on PAF base in Kohat, Kohat garrison and Lachi police station.
The report also warned that the group could mount an assault on the Bannu prison to free Adnan Rashid, the PAF technician who has been sentenced to death in connection with the Pervez Musharraf assassination plot, and other dangerous militants.
The National Crisis Management Cell – which works under the interior ministry – had sent the report to K-P’s home secretary, police chief and all others concerned officials, recommending necessary measures to foil such attacks.
‘Total failure of intelligence’
“Challenging the government’s writ so openly is a total failure of intelligence agencies,” Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told a news conference in Peshawar.
“We have removed the deputy superintendent of Bannu jail, the city commissioner and two other senior police officers,” he said, adding that a five-member committee had been set up to investigate the matter.
He also noted that the jailbreak coincided with multiple attacks by the Taliban across the border in Afghanistan. “The committee will try to find out whether the jailbreak, claimed by local Taliban, had any link to the coordinated attacks in Afghanistan,” Hussain said.
He said that the committee, led by Reform Management and Monitoring Unit Director Dr Ehsanul Haq, will complete its probe within 15 days and its findings will be made public.
Home and Tribal Affairs Secretary Azam Khan, meanwhile, blamed the federal government for not heeding requests to mend loopholes in security for the province.
The paramilitary Frontier Corps is supposed to be deployed in the buffer zones between tribal and settled areas of K-P, Khan said.
“However, only 38% of FC troops are where they are actually required. The rest are deployed in Islamabad and elsewhere,” he said, adding that he had communicated his concern to the federal government five months ago.
While investigators are looking for clues, it has been learnt that of the 93 police officials who were supposed to be on guard, a whopping 63 were absent on the fateful day.
Out of the 30 remaining who were actually present, only 10 were armed. Of the 20 FC officials who were supposed to be on duty, 14 were absent. Only six FC personnel were armed and on duty.
To sum up: There were a total of 36 officials on duty, who were monitoring 946 inmates, when there should have been a total of 113 officials on duty. Up to 68 per cent of those who were supposed to be on guard were absent. Of those who were present, only 16 were armed – figures highly contradictory to those provided by the authorities, who claimed that security strength was high on the day of the attack.
A militant commander who helped plan the Bannu jailbreak said that his group had inside information.
“We had maps of the area and we had complete maps and plans of the jail as well,” he told Reuters. “All I have to say is we have people who support us in Bannu. It was with their support that this operation was successful.”
It was not possible to independently verify that account. But the inspector general for prisons in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Arshad Majeed, did not rule out collusion.
“It is possible that the attackers had help from the inside. We cannot confirm that but we are investigating to see what happened,” he said.
Bannu DIG Iftikhar Ahmed told Daily Express confirmed that there had been cell phone contact between the prisoners and the attackers.
Azam Khan conceded that prisoners in different jails of the province had access to cellphones. But he tried to shift the blame.
“We have requested (the federal government) for the installation of mobile jammers in prisons,” he said. “The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has yet to issue a No-Objection Certificate despite the fact that I have been in communication with them for four months.”
(Additional input from AGENCIES and Fida Adeel in Peshawar)
Correction: An earlier version of this article had incorrectly attributed a quote of Secretary Home and Tribal Affairs Azam Khan to Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain. The correction has been made.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.